Eisner Awards Nominations Fallout, 2013 edition

We can’t all be winners, folks —we can’t even all be nominees. The Eisner Awards nomination always ignite a debate wth one saide or another feeling snubbed and dissed, because the choices are particularly dependent on each year’s jury—its makeup can skew this way or that. The 2013 edition skewed towards….well, if you really look at the list it didn’t so much skew towards anything as skewing AWAY from superhero comics. But even there, Marvel’s Hawkeye TIED with Chris Ware’s epochal Building Stories for second most nominations — I wouldn’t exactly call that a superhero snub, would you?

But let’s back up for a minute. The first controversy over this year’s noms was The “Frank Santoro Before Watchmen Blacklist” Outrage. iFanboy has the most complete account of the matter: basically back in the winter of 2012, Eisner judge Santoro tumblred the following:

Before Watchmen blacklist
Here’s a handy list of all the comics makers who participated in Before Watchmen. I refuse to buy or read anything by these folks: Neal Adams, Rafael Albuquerque, Michael Allred, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Jordi Bernet, Tim Bradstreet, Massimo Carnevale, Cliff Chiang, Michael Cho, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, David Finch, Gary Frank, Richard Friend, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Michael Golden, John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, Jock,  J.G. Jones, Dave Johnson, Michael Kaluta, Chip Kidd, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, Jim Lee, John Paul Leon, Joshua Middleton, Phil Noto, Kevin Nowlan, Olly Moss, Joe Prado, Paul Pope, Ivan Reis, Eduardo Risso, P. Craig Russell, Steve Rude, Chris Samnee,  Bill Sienkiewicz, Ryan Sook, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, J. Michael Straczynski, Jill Thompson, Bruce Timm, Ethan Van Sciver, Len Wein


Well, a bold statement, a rash one and one made in the heat of outrage of the existence of Before Watchmen. Flash forward to this week when the post was retrieved in order to show he should never have been allowed to judge comics again. Questioned by many over his objectivity, Santoro released the following statement:

I definitely had strong feelings about Before Watchmen when it was announced. However, once I became an Eisner judge, I took my responsibility seriously, set my feelings aside, and considered the books that were submitted—as did all the other judges. (And I don’t believe any of the other judges had actually seen that particular blog post.) These titles and creators were up against strong competition in all the categories for which they qualified, and ultimately none of them made the final nominations list. I actually went to bat for Steve Rude and Darwyn Cooke specifically. Some of the creators I listed in the posting are indeed nominated for Eisners for other work they did. So no, it did not affect the judging decisions.


I know Frank, and I’ve worked with Frank, and no one loves comics more; no one cares about good comics more. While I love and respect my friends who worked on Before Watchmen—and some people on that list are among my best friends on earth—my advice to them is also to just move on. I know some of them worked on the project from decent motives, but that’s just corporate comics for you: homages and rehashings.

I know my dear friend Jimmy Palmiotti expressed strong twitter thoughts about the work of Amanda Conner, but as I’ve written before, DC should be desperately trying to publish a new Amanda Conner project, not having her work on prequels or sequels or whatever. In fact they should be trying to develop new books by Neal Adams, Rafael Albuquerque, Michael Allred, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Jordi Bernet, Tim Bradstreet, Massimo Carnevale, Cliff Chiang, Michael Cho, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, David Finch, Gary Frank, Richard Friend, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Michael Golden, John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, Jock,  J.G. Jones, Dave Johnson, Michael Kaluta, Chip Kidd, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, Jim Lee, John Paul Leon, Joshua Middleton, Phil Noto, Kevin Nowlan, Olly Moss, Joe Prado, Paul Pope, Ivan Reis, Eduardo Risso, P. Craig Russell, Steve Rude, Chris Samnee,  Bill Sienkiewicz, Ryan Sook, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, J. Michael Straczynski, Jill Thompson, Bruce Timm, Ethan Van Sciver and Len Wein. Can you imagine how great that comics line would be?

But alas, that is not how it works.

I think Santoro’s judge cred has been upheld by his own statements, the actual nominations and statements from past judges on how one person isn’t really able to control the voting room. (Tom Spurgeon also has some particularly cogent thoughts on the whole megillah.) I’m actually more disturbed by the thought that expressing some kind of ethical stance about something somehow disqualifies you from being able to judge esthetics. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of how it works? I know that the comics world is one big happy picnic, but when someone pees in the picnic basket, shouldn’t they at least be scolded? (If you are unclear on who I think did the peeing, read some of my links very carefully.)

A far more annoying (to me anyway) suggestion is that by mostly ignoring superhero comics—DC only got two noms, and besides Hawkeye, Marvel didn’t show much—the 2013 Eisner Awards were somehow under representing a bunch of great comics

To this I respond: WHERE HAVE YOU PEOPLE BEEN?!?!

Have you actually looked at the crazy, small press indie stuff that got nominated this year that are only read by five people?

You know, things like Adventures Time. And A Wrinkle in Time. And Baby Blues.

Some crazy indie shit there.

And Star Wars, Wally Wood and Uncle Scrooge.

And the small publishers picked, like Pantheon and Bloomsbury.

Even if you’re just talking comics, it’s not exactly All Blaise Larmee all the time: Dark Horse Presents, Saga, a book originally created by Rob Liefeld. Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips, those unpopular small press guys. And a story by Michael Kupperman about Albert Einstein and Mark Twain landing on the moon. Nutty.

Okay some of the names may not be that familiar to you, unless you read actual reviews of comics that aren’t on ComicBookMovieSpectacularNews.com. But I can assure you that Michael DeForge, Ethan Rilly and Luke Pearson are consistently well reviewed by intelligent people inside and outside the comics bathyscaphe.

There was one book on the list I had never heard of. An anthology called Where Is Dead Zero?. Now what the…I figured this had to be some micro-press experimental anthology, right?

tumblr mdjmt6lCaQ1rib3bwo2 1280 Eisner Awards Nominations Fallout, 2013 edition

Nope. It’s an art anthology put together by Disney animators in their spare time. Weird, ugly stuff like this, by Brian Kesinger

I admit, I’m in a privileged position: as the graphic novel reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, I see pretty much everything there is to see—except Marvel—so I have an unusually wide viewpoint on all this. Most of the books that this year’s judges picked are consistently well-reviewed. Of course there were a lot of excellent books that didn’t make it, but before you cry bias and unfair, I suggest you sit down and read some of the nominees. You may just be shocked at what you find.

I am not trying to put down the hard work and immense talents of folks who work in the superhero genre. They are passionate and do their best. But it’s just not the only genre on the shelf any more. The most vibrant and resonant creative energies in comics were far from the New 52 or Marvel Now in 2012. If you want to read superhero comics and enjoy them, that’s fine, but enjoy them for what they are most of the time, fun yarns about heroes and villains.

Another judge this year was the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna and he sums up the judging experience thus:

Time and again, my fellow judges made these bittersweet or brutal calls with a clear-eyed conviction. They set the standard high.

The resulting ballot, I believe, is a fittingly diverse representation of the amazing year in comics that was 2012. So many great titles, so much great talent. Comics is enjoying an embarrassment of creative riches.

Are there titles or people I’d add? Of course — most every passionate comics fan would. But I’m proud of what this overall ballot stands for — an affirming list that says: Look at how a wide range of gifted creatives made 2012 an unforgettable year for comic achievement. Let’s hope this ballot sparks not only sales, but also discovery.


2012 was an extraordinary year, and that’s what everyone in the industry should be grateful for.

Comments

  1. Scott Haselwood says:

    Agreed. The idea that super hero comics are being snubbed seems pretty silly. This Eisner nominations list really just highlights the fact that comics are as diverse and vital a medium as ever.

    Also, it’s good to see Santoro getting credit for acknowledging his previous comments and putting aside his feelings in order to make objective choices. It doesn’t really matter what he said in the past, but rather, how seriously he takes his responsibility as a judge. Clearly, he takes it very seriously and he loves and understands comics.

  2. Mesektet says:

    I was bummed Fiona Staples didn’t make the cut. Imo the best artist working.

  3. Well said, Heidi.

  4. Superheroes loom large within the comics world amd seem hugely popular but when you look at actual books sold in bookstores, superheroes are definitely a very small slice of the pie.

    Frank Santoro is incredible at dissecting art and I couldn’t imagine anyone being “blacklisted” from the Eisners. Maybe (shockingly) all that Before Watchmen stuff isn’t good! I don’t know- I haven’t heard anyone talking about it.

  5. Also how depressing is it that there are only two women on that “blacklist”!! Come ON DC

  6. Eric Reynolds says:

    Well put, Heidi!

  7. Kind of weird that Waid was all over the place last go-around, and this time he’s got nothing. Has the quality of his work decline that much in one year?

  8. There aren’t many Marvel and DC books on the list because they don’t deserve to be there. In terms of straight up quality comics, these guys are lagging behind. Especially DC, who have essentially broken down mid-jog and should be put out of their misery. Marvel are at least trying (and at times actually succeeding) but I don’t think they can compete in any meaningful way with the quality of the actual nominees.

  9. Kate Halprin says:

    “as I’ve written before, DC should be desperately trying to publish a new Amanda Conner project, not having her work on prequels or sequels or whatever. In fact they should be trying to develop new books by… Joe Kubert…”

    I fear they’ve missed the boat on that one.

  10. Zeparu says:

    If you’re looking for a comics awards that REALLY snubs superhero books, try the German Max&Moritz award. Last year, Panini, the German publisher of both Marvel and DC books, gave up on submitting any books for the award because they never get nominated anyway. Ever. Over decades. Superhero fans in the US don’t know how lucky they are.

  11. Johnny Memeonic says:

    The most vibrant and resonant creative energies in comics were far from the New 52 or Marvel Now in 2012. If you want to read superhero comics and enjoy them, that’s fine, but enjoy them for what they are most of the time, fun yarns about heroes and villains.

    Got to disagree. Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers are the best story in comics being published right now.

  12. PreacherCain: “There aren’t many Marvel and DC books on the list because they don’t deserve to be there. In terms of straight up quality comics, these guys are lagging behind. Especially DC, who have essentially broken down mid-jog and should be put out of their misery.”

    Agreed on the DC comments. I mean, I read a lot of DC books last year, and I enjoyed a lot of them, but the only one I would even come close to thinking “This deserves awards!” is The Unwritten. (Its nod for cover art is definitely well-deserved.) Does DC comics publish good books? Certainly. But it should take more than “good” to get nominated for an Eisner.

  13. Leandro M. Duarte says:

    I just can’t believe how Daredevil didn’t get more nominations and how Journey into Mystery by Kieron Gillen was completely ignored. Oh, and Jordie Bellaire.

  14. George says:

    Didn’t read any of the nominations, let alone even knew the majority of them existed. Would love to see The Beat do a follow up and put the sales next to each of the nominations.

  15. Synsidar says:

    Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers are the best story in comics being published right now.

    I have to disagree with that. Hickman relies on style, vs. plot content, in the Avengers titles as heavily as some other writers do, but the material has a sci-fi veneer that disguises the lack of plot content somewhat. In NEW AVENGERS, he engineered the destruction of the Infinity Gems through dubious means, and then had Stark resort to a Dyson sphere, when the Infinity Gems could have been used to make the Dyson sphere instantly. Then, in AVENGERS, Hickman replaced the Infinity Gems with the Starbrand (brought in through dubious means, again), and devoted a storyline to a kid mishandling a power he didn’t want, and then being imprisoned because of it, when the Starbrand’s history in the M.U. shows that the kid could have just given the Starbrand to someone else. So, the storyline wound up having no point to it.

    Personally, I’m very much against the notion that the plot in a story doesn’t matter. With superhero series, especially, fans tend to regard the characters as people that they want to enjoy the company of, rather than constructs devoted to the purposes of the story, so dismissing the importance of a story’s plot only encourages the celebrity worship mentality some readers have.

    Perhaps Santoro should have disqualified himself because of the perception of bias, but the Eisner Awards don’t have nearly the impact on marketing programs that book and cinema awards do.

    SRS

  16. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Synsidar, Hickman not adhering to old and obscure Marvel universe minutiae that only the oldest fans know does not make his work have a “lack of plot content.” I don’t understand how anyone who actually read the issues released so far could even make that statement.

    Also, his New Universe stuff was stated to be based on Warren Ellis’ take instead of Jim Shooter’s, so maybe that’s where you’re getting confused.

  17. Jackie Estrada says:

    The judges’ comments about the judging experience have been posted here: http://www.comic-con.org/toucan/eisner-award-judges-talk-about-2013-nominations-process

  18. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: Eisner judging is like legislation & sausage making– the less you know about it–the happier you’ll be.

    It’s an unforgettable experience. I came home from it last year & Cory asked me what it was like and I said “I will never worry about the Eisners & Beanworld ever again. It’s a lot of luck of the draw & not much more. ”

    It’s very hard as a creator to sit there and see really interesting work get shot down in favor of work I found far less interesting. Factions do form, deals are cut, and when you go home it’s like having your bell rung–what just happened?

    This year’s nominees far more reflect my personal taste then last year’s & so my compliments to the judges for this extremely interesting slate of nominees.

    The most important thing for the blogosphere to understand is that there is virtually no continuity from year to year between each panel of judges. When you are in that room sequestered from the world– it’s just the you, the comics, and the other judges. To tie the tastes of judges from one year to the next is not dealing with facts.

    In the end the nominations are a snap shot of the opinions of six people over three intense days. No more–no less..

    Whatever your position in comics, if you get asked to judge I wholeheartedly recommend you accept.

    That said, even if I wanted to I could never do that again–it’s a good thing you can only Eisner judge once.

  19. I don’t necessarily have strong feelings on it, but I *was* thinking that *perhaps* there needs to be some sort of “distribution test” that a book might need to meet to be eligible — even for the Oscars, a film has to play (for a week?) in a movie theater in both New York and Los Angeles.

    Is there some kind of similar test that should apply to the Eisners?

    -B

  20. Synsidar says:

    Synsidar, Hickman not adhering to old and obscure Marvel universe minutiae that only the oldest fans know does not make his work have a “lack of plot content.

    Since the “minutiae” related directly to the Starbrand, they were relevant, no matter how old they were. Even if a writer thinks of producing monthly stories as his job, he’s still producing intellectual constructs. If the plot material he wants to use doesn’t work in the story, for whatever reasons, he should come up with material that does work. Rationalizing that continuity doesn’t matter is one of the weakest possible reasons for going ahead with the story, because it directly affects the reason for writing it in the first place. The reader doesn’t give a damn about the writer having a job to do.

    SRS

  21. Bill Tudor says:

    Remember, this is the same Frank Santoro who famously boycotted Marvel books due to the Kirby heirs decision, and when taken to task about the money he made from his Silver Surfer story, called the questioners “fanboys” and said that not only was he not giving the money back, or to charity, or even to the Kirby heirs, but rather was going to “spend it on Kirby comics” as if that’s what Kirby “would have wanted”.

    Dude’s a tool, and Spurgeon and Reynolds and Nadel’s support of him is a perfect example of what’s wrong with comics.

  22. I was really pleased to see Hawkeye score so many nominations as it really is hitting it out of the ball park in the world of superhero comics and is right up there with the best that the medium is producing right now. Yes I love other DC/Marvel comics – I Vampire, Young Avengers, JiM, Batman Inc – but in terms of the amazing quality in comics right now, Hawkeye is a winner.

    A lot of the nominees are very familiar to me in my other life in the book publishing world. These are the books that have been lighting up the book store shelves and attracting critical acclaim from the wider field (though I do notice that Costa winner Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes is missing??). Like Heidi, I’m familiar with these books from that publishing background rather than my comics background, and it’s telling that the two often fail to meet in the middle.

    Superhero is just one tiny genre in a medium that covers the entire world. But the reach of their iconic characters is far greater, and perhaps allows for less rigid standards of quality (and the corporate ties certainly constrict the talented imaginations at hand)… But Hawkeye man. Love it.

  23. Chris Hero says:

    Bill,

    Frank is indeed a huge tool as a person, but his knowledge and love for the medium is incredible. Even though I can’t stand him (or any of the current tcj.com crew not named Tim Holder, Jog, or Abhay Kholsa), he’s the best possible person to be an Eisner judge.

  24. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Synsidar, again, Hickman used Ellis’ version of Star Brand. Why did you ignore that and type another paragraph still based on the belief he is using Shooter’s version? Surely you noticed a few more words when quoting the first part of my post?

  25. Even though I do agree with Heidi’s assessment of the past year being one of the best in a long while, I do have to get on my soap box and make a stink about the omission of Matt Kindt and his Mind Mgmt series from Dark Horse not receiving any kind of recognition from this year’s nominations.

    What Kindt is doing in this series is nothing short of spectacular. What he is doing with every issue of Mind Mgmt is showing what comics CAN be. As someone who has read comics for 40+ years, his work here is refreshing and totally original.

    While I agree that most of the nominations are deserved, how neither Kindt or Mind Mgmt didn’t receive any kind of nomination is disappointing.

  26. I’d like to see a category for best comic book related podcast. Some really good ones out there.

  27. Torsten Adair says:

    I would like to see a shortlist for each category. It doesn’t have to be by judge, just a list of everything at least one judge liked.
    There are THOUSANDS of graphic novels being published each year. Thousands of comic books. Thousands of translations (including academic treatises!) And the tide is rising, so Sturgeon’s Law means that the number of not-crappy titles increases.
    There are some notable exclusions, like My Friend Dahmer.

    I have more criticism over how the awards are run. Where are the rules found? What qualificatiokns must a judge have? Why is there an award for webcomics but not comic strips? What behavior is allowed and not allowed for campaigning from publishers and creators?

  28. Ooh! Best podcast would be an excellent category!

  29. Jackie Estrada says:
  30. Jake W says:

    “Remember, this is the same Frank Santoro who famously boycotted Marvel books due to the Kirby heirs decision, and when taken to task about the money he made from his Silver Surfer story, called the questioners “fanboys” and said that not only was he not giving the money back, or to charity, or even to the Kirby heirs, but rather was going to “spend it on Kirby comics” as if that’s what Kirby “would have wanted”.”

    Wait, where did this happen?

  31. Bill Tudor says:

    [“Remember, this is the same Frank Santoro who famously boycotted Marvel books due to the Kirby heirs decision, and when taken to task about the money he made from his Silver Surfer story, called the questioners “fanboys” and said that not only was he not giving the money back, or to charity, or even to the Kirby heirs, but rather was going to “spend it on Kirby comics” as if that’s what Kirby “would have wanted”.”

    Wait, where did this happen?]

    http://www.tcj.com/st-louis-shuffle/

    “My viewpoint is naive? I don’t fucking care! Sorry friends of mine who work for Marvel – sorry stores where I shop and spend money – but I won’t be buying any more Marvel Comics. Ever. I won’t be drawing any comics for Marvel again. Ever. Give the money back that I made from this job? Fuck you, fanboy! I spent it on Jack Kirby back issues at Copacetic! ”

    …and so on.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Robot 6, and Josh Flanagan at iFanboy, and Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, and Heidi MacDonald at The Beat. Brigid’s reflections on the whole Eisner process also make wonderful […]

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